The Mark Knopfler Rig on the 2015 Tracker Tour

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Amps, Effects, Mark Knopfler gear

Guy Fletcher was so kind to post a picture of Mark’s effect rack in his tour diary . With this blog post I am trying to explain a bit what we can see in the picture, and some details we can conclude from what we see.

But first here is what Guy wrote on it:

As has been requested on more than one occasion, here is some inside info on Mark’s guitar rig. Glenn Saggers station. As anyone who has seen the show will realise, there are a lot of guitar changes not only for Mark but for everyone. Mr. Saggers works flat out during the show, tuning and preparing amp setups and delivering instruments to Mark flawlessly through the evening. I really don’t know how he does it as every amp sound and effects setting is recalled meticulously for each and every song. Two Reinhardt amps are used in leap-frog fashion and whilst we are performing one song, the next one is being set up. Also there is the ’59 Bassman (offstage) which is used for slide along with Mark’s ‘Dano’ and of course the Tone King which resides onstage in between the two 4×12 cabinets. The Tone King settings remain constant during the show.

MKGEARmontage-700
Picture courtesy Guy Fletcher (guyfletcher.co.uk)

Well, Mark uses four different amps on this tour. While Guy speaks of two Reinhardts, what we see is one Reinhardt Talyn (top left) and a Komet Linda (bottom left). Then we have a Tone King on stage, and a 1959 Fender Bassman off-stage. The tone King is for some clean guitar sounds, and the Bassman for slide with the Danelectro guitar.

Guy says two Reinhardts “are used in leap-frog fashion”, meaning one is in use while the other is prepared for the next song. I guess the same is true for the Reinhardt and the Komet we see here. However, this also means that when Mark wants to play two songs that both require e.g. the Komet but with different settings, he has to play one other song with a different amp in between so that his technician Glenn Saggers has time to prepare all settings. Or Glenn has to be very quick and change the settings in a short break while Mark e.g. announces the next song.

The Effect Rack

Some devices in the rack are the same as on previous tour (compare to the 2008 rack): we see the familiar D.A.V. electronis pre-amps (with EQ, possibly some limiting/compressing, exact model unsure, probably custom made), the same switching units, and the TC Electronis 2290 delay. There is a Furman power conditioner again, this time at the bottom of the rack. It seems to be this model.

We see that all devices – except a compressor – are arranged in pairs. Theoretically this can be for several reasons: one for each “leap-frog pair” so that Glenn can adjust the device for the next song, one for each stereo channel, or one in use and one as a spare in case of some defect.

We can’t know for sure, but there is one detail in the pictures that makes one think it is the third option: the power LEDs on some devices (the lower of the two D.A.V. electronics pre-amps and lower of the switching units) are off, so I guess these are spares.

There is one ‘new’ effect – new does not sound right for a classic that was introduced in the 1970ies – a dbx 160A mono compressor. If I had to guess I would say it is for clean slide guitars.

Let’s have a look at the switching system:

On the left we have a gain control – I guess the D.A.V. comes first so the gain will not do that much, next five insert slots, a mute button, and then five outputs.

Insert1:
unsure if green LED is on or off, no label, might be unused, has an additional mini switch (can also be a ‘bypass all inserts’)

Insert2:
labelled with FX (effects). Which effects? All the ones in the rack are in the other inserts (see below), so I guess this is for effects on stage. This makes sense as it is the first insert in the line.

Insert3:
labbeled with VP (volume pedal). The Ernie Ball volume pedal is used in the effect insert, just like on previous tours. Mark’s guitar does not go directly into the device to his feet as you might assume, but to the rack, then it goes back to the volume pedal, and from the volume pedal back to the rack. You need long cables, but as the signal is low impedance here this does not matter really.

Insert4:
labelled dbx, so it is the 160A compressor

Insert5:
the TC 2290

It seems each insert can be active (green LED on) or bypassed here.

The signal can then be routed to any of the four amps.

If you see more details, or want to speculate what the little boxes on topf of the Talyn and Linda amps (labelled with Talyn and Linda) are, share your thought in a comment to this blog post (no registration required).

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Music Man Amps are back

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in Amps

mm-reissues-brochure-2What a nice surprise on this year’s Frankfurt Music Fair:  Music Man amps are coming back.  DV MARK (dvmark.it) displayed reissues of those  silver-black Music Man amps that were popular in the seventies and eighties.

Clapton played Music Man amps, Albert Lee played them, and of course Mark Knopfler. He used 130 watts combos on the Communiqué and Making Movies tours. The complete Music Man amp line was discontinued in the early eighties.

DV MARK presented reissues of three popular amp models and one speaker cabinet: the HD 130 Reverb top (the model Eric Clapton played) with a 4 x 12″ cabinet, the 112 RD 50 (a very popular small combo with an additional tube for the overdrive), and of course the “Mark Knopfler model” 212 HD 130.

Here are some first impressions on the 212 HD 130 combo: The reissue looks similar but not identical to the original. They all have of course the black tolex cover and the silver front grill, also the familiar Music Man logo on the front. The logo is the inverted “silver on black” version of the late Music Man amps (after 1980) instead of the original “black on silver” logo on Mark’s amps. It is also a bit smaller.

All controls were identical but some of the cosmetics were a bit different, e.g. the shape of the bright switches. Unfortunately the reissue is not the version with the tube driver (all Music Man amps had a solid-state pre amp and a tube power amp section, but the amps before 1978 had a tube in the driver stage that sits between pre and power amp). I am not sure if Mark had the version with the tube or not – the change was in 1978, about the time when Mark got his first Music Man amp so both is possible but generally the ones with the tube are regarded as better sounding.

The reissue of the Music man 212 HD 130

The amp features two speakers with round ceramic magnets. The original amp line came with square alnico magnets up to 1978, when they first got speakers with square ceramic magnets and about 1980 with round ceramic magnets. I know that Mark had square speakers but not for sure if these were the ceramic or the alnico ones. I personally would have prefered to see the alnico speakers in a reissue.

Another difference became obvious when I wanted to play the amp. Just like the original it has a power switch on the front (with  a high and low swtting for reduced output power), but when I reached for the back of the amp to switch on the standby switch I had to find out that there was no switch. I cannot tell if the amp I played was a prototype with non final specs, at least it had no standby switch at all. Judging on the sound is difficult as a music fair is not the ideal situation to check out an amp with all its tonal capabilities. At least it did not seem to sound completely different.

Not all details – like the look of the bright switches – are correct

I learned that these amps are produced in Italy by DV Mark licenced by Ernie Ball who also still produce the Music Man basses and hold the right for the Music man label. The amps should be available in September 2014, I have no info yet on the price.

From the brochure

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Jim Kelley amps – the FACS model used on the Brothers in Arms tour

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Amps, Mark Knopfler gear

Jim Kelley  was a small manufacturer of boutique amps who started his business in the late 70ies. He started with only one amp model, a single channel amp with 6 tubes and just 3 knobs. The  later dual channel was still based on this model.

Compared to other boutique amp that were favourits at that time – namely Mesa Boogie or Dumble – the Kelley amps followed a different approach. While the Mesa Boogies had lots of controls and options (various push/pull knobs, EQs, different gain stages etc.), the Kelley had just 3 knobs and followed the idea of having a simple signal path without any redundant components to obtain a pure and natural sound.

The original single channel combo amp

While the Mesa Boogie made use of two different pre-amp sections that were chained in serial so that the first can overdrive the second to get high-gain distortion even at low volume, the Kelley favoured the more natural sounding distortion from the power amp. As this automatically results in high volume, the amps were often paired with a power attenuator ( a device between amp and speakers that turns a part of  the output power into heat to reduce volume).

The Kelley amps soon get very popular among session players on the US West Coast, they became the “house amplifiers” of the Shangri La studios (the place where Mark Knopfler recorded his Shangri La album decades later), and were soon exported to Japan and Gemany (by the way, the German distributor was the music shop in my hometown where I played a Kelley amp for the first time in the early 80ies). On the US East Coast they were sold at Rudy’s Music Stop in New York, where John Suhr and Jack Sonni worked at that time, who introduced this amp to Mark Knopfler. According to Jack Sonni, Mark played his Kelley amp and his foam green Schecter Strat for the recording of One World (from the Brothers in Arms album) and loved the sound so much that he used the Kelley amp on the Brothers in Arms tour (1985/86).

The two channel FACS head - note the power attenuator on top of the amp

The model Jack Sonni and Mark Knopfler used was the dual channel amp, the FACS (for foot activated channel switching). These amps were available as combo or head (Knopfler and Sonni used the heads) and had two identical pre amps so that each can be adjusted for a different sound, with a reverb control for each channel. As the idea of the Kelley’s distortion sound was to overdrive the output stage, different gain settings would automatically lead to different volume. Here the attenuator comes in, which was activated when switching to the overdriven channel so that you can match the volume to your needs.

 Technical stuff

Each channel has a gain, treble, bass, and reverb control (from left to right). The treble control can be pulled to act as a bright switch, while pulling the bass control adds a mid boost. Pulling the gain control on channel one – which was intended as a the overdrive channel and is paired with tghe power attenuator – allows you to switch the channels without the foot switch, pulling out the gain control of the second channel enables a presence boost.

The output stage uses four 6V6 tubes and can be switched to 30 or 60 watts, while 12AX7 tubes were used in the pre , as phase inverter, and to drive the reverb. The Brothers in Arms tour was one of the longest tours a major rock band ever did, and thus surely meant a particular stress for the gear. This lead to some tube failures so that Jack Sonni finally changed to a Seymour Duncan convertable amp towards the end of the tour which seems more reliable.

The FACS - from a Guitar Player feature

Unfortunately there aren’t any pictures that show Mark’s amps as these were placed behind the stage where they could be operated by a technician. You can see one of these – probably Jack Sonni’s – on the video of the Live Aid concert in July 1985. The pictures do not show Knopfler’s amp but similar ones.

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